Thursday, February 4, 2016

February Goals

For the past few months (okay, more like an entire year), I have shied away from setting goals. Around this time last year, Erik and I had just started looking for apartments, which quickly turned into picking one and moving in. The rest of the year was also spent settling in while also dealing with a fairly busy schedule. It wasn't in the cards to set up any kind of goals other than remember to go grocery shopping before you have no healthy food in the apartment or don't wait to clean the bathroom until you can't remember the LAST time you cleaned the bathroom. Yeah, there might've been a huge adjustment period here.

That being said, I think I'm finally okay to set some (tiny) goals for the month of February. I have yet to complete my Holiday Council work - I am on the last week, which is goal-setting and action steps, aka my nemeses - but I didn't want that to prevent me from attempting to get my life in order. I have two overarching goals this month: start making doctor's appointments and get my finances in check.

Doctor's Appointments

I am notorious for avoiding doctor's offices because it fills me with anxiety. The last time I was at a non-routine doctor's appointment, I was as nervous as if I was speaking in front of a crowd as I sat in the waiting room. My heart was pounding, I was rehearsing everything (symptoms, health history, etc.) in my head, and I wanted to melt into the floor.

Even routine visits give me just enough anxiety that I keep putting it off until, whoops!, several months/years have gone by. The only doctor I've seen regularly is my gynecologist and, only recently, my dentist. I am way, way past due to see a primary care doctor - in fact, the last doctor I saw other than urgent care was my pediatrician. When I was 18. SO LIKE TEN YEARS AGO. Embarrassing.

My checklist is as follows:
  • Find a primary care physician that takes my insurance and schedule a physical
  • Go in for my semi-annual teeth cleaning
  • Go to the eye doctor
  • Find a new gynecologist
I also eventually want to see a dermatologist and a gastroenterologist, but I'm trying not to overload myself (or my wallet, because having shitty insurance and paying a lot out-of-pocket is going to suuuuuck).


I am generally good about saving money and not spending too much. However, moving into a new apartment - my first real living space that wasn't my bedroom or my dorm, which is essentially another bedroom - got me into the bad habit of just dropping money on whatever "thing" we "needed" to have. Some of them were legitimate, but then I got used to justifying things and I went a teeny bit overboard. I also got way off track with making and bringing my lunch to work instead of buying it, mainly during the holiday season when I felt too busy to make lunch every day.

I started curbing my spending at the tail end of January, but I'm taking this goal very seriously in February. I refuse to go shopping unless absolutely necessary and have been avoiding all of the promotional e-mails in my inbox (or, surprisingly, talking myself out of most impulse purchases I've wanted to make).

Additionally, I started tracking everything I spend by breaking it into categories. I have always tracked the purchases I make on my credit card so that I could tie it out to my statements, but I never recorded categorically what I was spending. I know there are tools out there, but I am a perfectionist and I dislike a lot of the categories/classifications used by websites. I'd much rather spend the time tediously typing them out in the hopes that it makes me that much more aware of where my money goes. Like oh, I'm copying over the fifth line that says I bought lunch at Quick Chek this week, maaaaybe I should stop?

The other thing I'm doing this month is something I picked up while dipping my toes into the world of bullet journaling. The idea of bullet journaling makes me light up like twinkle lights inside, but I know I'm too much of a perfectionist to give it a try right now. Maybe next year. But! I was inspired by the idea of a habit tracker, which is basically a grid you make for the month and shade in as you complete small, daily goals (for example, getting in bed by 11:30pm). It's like a gold-star chart, but miniaturized! Plus, it gives me a reason to use my planner more, which is nice because it's just been a pretty paperweight thus far in the year.

I have confidence in my abilities to tackle these goals. I mean, I'm finally feeling awful enough that I need to go see a doctor about my issues (isn't that the most pitiful statement ever?), so it has to happen whether I like it or not. Finances are always important, especially since I'm choosing to stick with my job for at least the next year and I don't make the best money in the world. Besides, it feels nice to focus my energy back on myself, even if these are not-so-fun tasks. I kind of missed goal setting, I guess!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Changing My Story: My Job

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in my post-grad life has been surrounding the topic of my job and career. I didn’t get a full-time job until I was three years out of college; I should specify that I also didn’t pursue much in those three years. A large part of it had to do with newly-diagnosed health issues and anxiety surrounding those issues, but I was also completely directionless.

I was left paralyzed by the career choices (or, lack thereof) presented to me in college. I studied accounting and, at my college, that meant getting on the track to get your CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification, work in public accounting for a number of years, and then settle into a private company if you so decided. If there were other options, I wasn't well enough informed about them, and the discomfort kept creeping up around me.

The worst part was deciding internally that I didn’t have the drive or the interest in studying for and completing my CPA certification, which is a five-part, extremely difficult exam. As everyone prepped to take these exams just after college - when the information was still fresh and before they changed the methodology of accounting - I learned to keep quiet and under the radar, lest anyone find out that, no, I wasn’t planning to do the one thing that seemed integral to everyone else’s career track.

Because I didn’t want my certification - and because my grades slipped as I grew anxious and disinterested by the field of accounting - none of the companies who did on-campus interviews were interested in me. Mainly, they were public accounting firms, so I knew I was out automatically because my certification wasn’t forthcoming. That added to my stress, obviously. Disinterest + lack of options + rejection from the few places I interviewed = feeling pretty shitty about my career outlook.

Once I graduated, I stalled. Plain and simple. And it lasted three full years.

I finally got a job in April of 2012. It’s the job I still have now, which means I’ve been there for just under four years. From the moment I got the job until now, my family disapproved. Why? For dozens of reasons, but mostly because I’m not living up to my potential (and oh, how I have learned to LOATHE that phrase). I had already accepted that I had fallen far from the student I was in elementary, middle, and high school - and that my family was already disappointed by that. But after I finally graduated college with a sad-but-manageable GPA and a diploma, and after I finally got a job, it still wasn’t enough.

(Side note: that's also the major reason I wanted to needed to move out from my parents' house.)

So that’s the story I absorbed into my core: I had a job, but it wasn’t good enough.

That’s the story I told anyone and everyone. I answered the question, “so what do you do?” with the canned storyline of having a job, but needing to leave ASAP because of [insert logical reason - more money, better opportunities, etc. - here]. I told this not only to new acquaintances, but also repetitively to my friends and family members whenever I saw them. Nobody ends up in accounts payable and stays there; this was temporary, a stepping stone. It became the truth in my head.

Except, it’s not the truth. And slowly, I was starting to draw away from conversation about my career because I was stressed and ashamed. When I would see someone for the third or fourth time in the span of the year, I knew I was presenting the same storyline over and over, never making any progress. It felt so, so shitty. I would come away from hangouts with friends and holidays with family members with an emotional hangover, because I felt like the biggest failure compared to anyone else I knew.

There are parts of that canned story that are correct. All of the “reasons” for finding a new job are legitimate. However, I am comfortable there. It’s a small office, we have very few (if any) meetings, and my bosses are flexible. These factors benefit me right now with my health issues the way they are. The money is not good, but it’s not bad, and I can cover the living expenses that I share with Erik.

Understanding the source of my resistance has helped me lift this weight off of my shoulders. I keep trying to focus on all the things - finding a "legitimate" new job, researching how to start moving towards my dream profession/career, working on my physical and mental health - but with all of them demanding my attention, I was choosing none. This year is about me. My theme for 2016 is "nourish" and, abiding by that, finding a new job is not a priority. Maybe it's in the cards without me knowing it, but it's not my main focus.

This is my first real step in listening to my mind and my heart. It isn't glamorous. It doesn't subscribe to the whole comfort vs. change argument that insists that you should always! be! changing!, or else you're living some horrible, stagnant life. (Yes, this is how I interpret those messages sometimes, when I'm feeling extra snarky). But it's necessary, just based on how much relief I feel since admitting that I've been lying to myself. And that's all that really matters.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 Recap, Part II.

This is Part II of my recap of 2015 - find Part I here.

From September through the end of the year, I felt like I was on rollercoaster plummeting down a huge drop. (Or, at least that what I imagine it felt like, since I’ve never actually been on a rollercoaster). What I mean is, life went FULL SPEED AHEAD for the last three months of the year. Erik and I attended an awesome Halloween party and dressed as Wendy Peffercorn and Squints from The Sandlot. I don’t even remember November other than moving Erik’s parents into their new house and celebrating Thanksgiving at my parents’ house.

The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas felt short, rushed, and overall disappointing. There were good moments, like buying our first Christmas tree and decorations for our apartment. But I didn’t do much baking like I usually do, and I didn’t really spend time with anyone except Erik’s friends for our ugly sweater party. I don’t know if it was the weather (it was super warm in November and December, so it felt more like spring) or not being in my parents’ house for the Christmas season, but I felt underwhelmed. Christmas itself, along with New Year's Eve, were low-key and I didn't feel my usual giddiness. I was also exhausted from an insane two weeks at work during this time, which didn't help with my holiday spirit.

The first week of the new year never truly feels like the new year because I’m still celebrating through to my birthday on January 8 (one week past New Year’s Day). This year was a little different in that I wasn’t celebrating my birthday in any way, other than getting some gifts from Erik. Instead, this year my youngest cousin on my mom’s side of the family got married on January 9, this past Saturday. It’s a long, somewhat crazy story, but the short version is that it was planned in three months and has been the focus of my mom’s family’s attention for that time. It was a beautiful wedding and we all had a fun time - and, if you know me at all, you know I love weddings in any capacity. For me, though, it was also a finish line. I finally felt like my year was over. My stressful time at work was over, the holidays were over, and now my birthday and the big wedding were over.

So here I am, back to life on my terms. Back to a life not filled with three-week stretches of carefully scheduled days and constant anxiety. Back to focusing my energy on what I want to be doing. One of those things, I’ve decided, is connection with people. This includes diving back into blogging and connections through blogging, because I miss it. Here's to 2016!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015 Recap, Part I.

2015 is both difficult and easy to recap. There were a lot of big, eventful moments; those are easy to remember and document. I know, though, that I’m missing all the wonderful little things that filled in the blanks - mostly time spent with friends and family in small ways, like summer barbecues and drink dates. And also the fact that two of my closest friends had babies, WHICH I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT until now. (I didn't forget that they had babies, but that they only had them this year.) Those things are not forgotten. In fact, those are the things I probably enjoyed the most, but to cherry pick them out of my brain is too tedious a task to try to do at the end of an entire year. So here are the big, bold, defining things that happened this year.

The biggest and most important thing to happen this year was moving out of my parents’ house and into an apartment with Erik. I often forget the magnitude of this event, considering I was disappointed that I hadn't left home sooner and, conversely, wasn’t sure Erik was fully sold on the idea of living together yet. I remember starting the year with discussions about apartment hunting, and from there on it felt completely surreal.

In June, I went on vacation with Erik and his friends to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We all rented a house for a week, spending our days at the beach and our nights being raucous and drinking too much. I have adapted to spending time with Erik’s friends and enjoy the occasional weekend party spent chugging beer from solo cups. But an entire week was a bit much for me, and I struggled. I spent a lot of time avoiding the drinking altogether and reading on the back deck, feeling happy that I was enjoying the vacation on my terms but guilty that I was separating myself from the group. Overall, I’m proud of myself for going - including having to endure an 8-hour car ride each way - because I proved to myself that I could. I just don’t know that I would push myself through it all again next year.

In July, I was honored to help my friends put together their dream wedding day. The bride - my friend Abbie, who is a long-time friend of Erik and Natalie’s - put together tons of DIY projects and pieces for her wedding, all of which were super gorgeous. (Seriously, she might have to help me one day when I get married…) Anyway, because she had such a specific idea of what everything would look like, she wanted someone she knew personally to help the event coordinators get everything just right. That’s where I came in. We staged things in her apartment a few weeks ahead of time, I gave her advice on finishing up some pieces, and then obviously I played a big part the day of the wedding. Everything tied together so beautifully and I felt really proud and happy that I was able to help. It was everything I love about wedding and party set-up, which is staging all of the tables and centerpieces to make sure it looks perfect.

August and September were filled with more summer and early fall activities - barbecues, a corn hole tournament, a belated apartment-warming party, and several fall festivals. Behind the scenes, though, Erik and I were struggling. I knew moving in together wasn’t going to be all rainbows and cupcakes, but I was thrown for a loop when Erik confronted me about some troublesome things of which I was completely unaware. From my perspective, things were going great; for him, not so much. There were rough, emotional discussions, something we don’t normally do (and probably a major cause of this all-of-a-sudden-things-are-awful meltdown). Through these discussions, however, we were able to actually communicate our feelings (what a novel concept!) and work through everything. And, as is usually the case, we are stronger because of our struggles.

Later this week, I'll be sharing the remainder of my year, which covers all of my year-end holiday festivities. (Because apparently, my 2015 recap is a lot more verbose than I expected it to be.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thoughts on Moving Out: An Update.

Moving out didn't change me the way I expected it would. Just like getting a job didn't change me.

Let's back up.

I moved out of my parents' home in April and have been living in a lovely little apartment with Erik since then. Like many people feel regarding a big change, I had grand ideas of how different life would feel away from my parents. I can't fully explain what I mean. It's not like I expected to become a different person, but I thought it would feel more like a "new" life than it has.

In reality, it feels exactly like what it is: a change in scenery.

Settling into a new place has proven to be more logistically difficult than I expected. There are still plenty of boxes and things at my parents' house (because they are wonderful and don't mind storing stuff in my abandoned closet). There are several unorganized shelves in our living area. The overwhelming parade of decisions has exhausted me. I simply stopped caring where we put things or what decor we want to put on the walls because I can't stand to make another decision, especially ones that offer so many choices.

All of that being said, I am so in love with it. I am in love with seeing my boyfriend each and every day, falling asleep next to him every night, and having my own space to tend to. I don't need to store all of my stuff in a single bedroom - I can now spread my things around an entire apartment. Like putting my jackets in the front hall closet instead of taking up space in my regular one! Even tedious tasks, like grocery shopping and cleaning, are a joy to me. Those are things I've always enjoyed and have continued to enjoy even now that I'm required to do them.

It feels like no time has passed between moving in and where I am now, though I know spring and summer have both gone by. Summer felt pleasantly long, so there is no sadness as fall comes along with its cooler weather and pumpkin-flavored treats (and yes, I'm buying all of them). But as the final quarter of the year comes into view, I'm ready to focus on myself and truly improving my life, as I promised I would when I was living on my own. It's time.